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article imageNew research to improve tuberculosis drugs

By Tim Sandle     Aug 18, 2014 in Science
New clues to understanding how the most important medication for tuberculosis (TB) works may lead to a new generation of medicines to fight the virulent bacterium.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis may infect any part of the body, but most commonly occurs in the lungs. Globally, tuberculosis is the second most common cause of death from infectious disease (after those due to HIV/AIDS). In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people worldwide developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease.
The antibiotic Pyrazinamide (PZA) has been used to treat TB since the 1950s. However, its mechanisms are not well understood. Researchers have found out that PZA cuts off the energy production of the causative bacterium — Mycobacterium tuberculosis — killing the bacteria. It does this by disrupting the production of certain enzymes in the bacterial cell. These enzymes are crucial for energy metabolism in the bacterium.
PZA works differently to other antibiotics because instead of only going after TB cells that are actively replicating, it seeks out and destroys dormant TB cells that cannot be controlled by other antibiotics. Because the enzyme is only present in bacteria like those found in TB and not in the cells of humans who contract the disease, the drug is relatively safe to use.
The PZA findings may help researchers identify new and more effective drugs not only for TB — which can require six months or more of treatment — but other persistent bacterial infections.
The study was carried out at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings have been published in the journal Emerging Microbes & Infections. The research is titled “Aspartate decarboxylase (PanD) as a new target of pyrazinamide in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.”
More about Tuberculosis, Tb, mycobacterium, Drugs
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